Tuesday, April 3, 2012

            Regina Pats - Jordan Weal leaves a legacy 

April 03, 2012

As the Los Angeles Kings' prospect makes the transition from junior superstar to pro rookie, Weal departs as one of the greatest players in the storied history of the Pats' franchise.

By Greg Harder - Leader Post

REGINA, Saskatchewan  —  Jordan Weal may be leaving the WHL's Regina Pats, but not without leaving his mark. As the Los Angeles Kings' prospect makes the transition from junior superstar to pro rookie, Weal departs as one of the greatest players in the storied history of the Pats' franchise.

Weal joined some elite company this season by climbing to third place on Regina's all-time assists list (250) and fourth in points (385). As a result, the dynamic centre's name will forever be mentioned alongside legendary Pats such as Dale Derkatch, Mike Sillinger and Dennis Sobchuk.

"It's an honour to be up with some of those names and it's all thanks to my teammates; I couldn't have done it without them," Weal, 19, said before departing to join the AHL's Manchester Monarchs. "The biggest thing I'm trying to leave behind is that everyone knew I was a good person. The hockey stuff is great but if you can be a good person people around you have respect for you then that's really what it's all about. I was very fortunate to play with some great players but I think this past year (was about) trying to be more of a teammate."

From the time he arrived in Regina as a 15-year-old prospect, Weal quickly became known for two things: His extraordinary skill and rare competitive fire. Along with those traits came a reputation as a bit of a loner who preferred to reside in solitude as he prepared for practices and games.

Then, something changed.

"It was brought to my attention," explained Weal, crediting head coach Pat Conacher and assistants Malcolm Cameron and Josh Dixon. "I thought I really made strides in that department off the ice and became a better person. Pat, Josh and Malcolm, they're all really knowledgeable and helped me so much away from the ice about being a better teammate in the dressing room and being a better person off the ice. In the end hockey is just a game and there's so much more in life."
Conacher has seen much more from Weal, watching him mature before his eyes.

Despite the youngster's on-ice brilliance, Conacher has stated in the past that he was more proud of what Weal accomplished off the ice. While appreciating his professionalism, Conacher felt he was a little too serious and a little too hard on himself at times, which is why the head coach was so pleased to see Weal's intense guise replaced by the smile of a player who took the time to enjoy his teammates — and enjoy the ride.

"He really gave more of himself," said Conacher, who credited Weal for going out of his way to help Regina's young players. "He does such a great job of being prepared for each and every game he plays, and practice. But he stepped outside of his box. He was uncomfortable with it at first as far as working with the young guys and being more vocal and just being more happy around the room. Jordan really grew as a person this year."

And a player.

In the end, Weal did OK for a guy who was supposed to be too small to thrive in the WHL environment.
"This organization has given me the opportunity to come in when I was young and have success; that's all you can ask," said Weal. "It has been a really special time. I took a walk to the dressing room (for perhaps the last time on the weekend) and you think about memories you had in those spots. It's pretty cool because there's a lot of good ones and a lot of great people. It's something I'll cherish forever."

Although Weal is anxious to embark on a pro career, he does so with some mixed emotions.

"This city really grows on you," said Weal. "At first you think it's really cold, minus-40, what's going on? But by the time you're 19 you're going to miss it. It's definitely mixed feelings but it's going to be a really good summer for me. It's going to be fun because I'm going to be training to make that next step. I'm going to be working my hardest to do that."

There remains a chance — albeit a slim one — that Weal could return to Regina next season as a 20-year-old, giving him a legitimate chance of climbing to the top of the franchise's all-time scoring list. Although Weal has a contract in his back pocket and arguably nothing left to prove at the WHL level, the looming NHL labour war — if it stretches into next season — would leave big-league clubs with limited space for junior prospects in their minor league systems.

"I don't know what's going to happen in the NHL," added Weal. "But if I had the chance to come back here it would be a wild ride again and Pat would be ready for us and ready to get us going right where we left off. It would be a really fun year."
And quite an end to an already extraordinary career.

gharder@leaderpost.com